Support for EMFA, but we expect improvements to the proposal

The proposal of The European Media Freedom Act is welcome. Still, we are only at the beginning of the long road to its application in the member states. On that road, journalist organizations are advocating for significant changes to the proposal. This is one of the main messages that could be heard at today’s debate in the House of Europe dedicated to suggestions for new rules for protecting media pluralism and editorial independence in the EU.
The Office of the European Parliament in Croatia organized debates on the challenges and solutions brought by the European Media Freedom Act. The head of the European Parliament Office, Violeta Staničić, the director of the European Federation of Journalists, Renate Schroeder, and the member of the European Parliament, Ramona Strugariu (Renew, Romania), addressed the participants in the introduction. They said, “Parliament has long been calling for a significant, essential mechanism to resolve vulnerabilities in the media sector, especially in member states where the rule of law is deteriorating. In recent years, we have witnessed a marked deterioration in the state of media freedom and media pluralism in the EU. The Commission’s proposal is a good start to address this issue.” The representative considers it a significant step forward that the proposal prohibits the use of spyware against the media and says that protecting journalistic sources is the key to independent journalism. She also emphasized the importance of transparent state advertising and that public money should not deter editorial independence. Furthermore, she welcomed the proposal to establish a new European committee for media services, which should guarantee the freedom of national regulators, but also concluded that there is room for improvement in the Commission’s proposal.
The discussion was attended by Maja Sever, president of the Trade Union of Croatian Journalists and the European Federation of Journalists (EFJ), Hrvoje Zovko, president of the Croatian Journalists’ Association; Jasna Vaniček-Fila, director of the Directorate for Media and Development of Cultural and Creative Industries at the Ministry of Culture and Media, Iva Nenadić, Faculty of Political Sciences in Zagreb and the European University Institute in Florence (online) and Paško Bilić, Institute for Development and International Relations, Zagreb.
The participants welcomed that the European Commission recognizes journalism as a public good in the proposal and that it is an important step forward. However, refinements are needed in many areas to ensure proper application in the member states. They emphasized that the implementation of media policies is primarily in the hands of the member states. Therefore, discussing the challenges and mechanisms for ensuring national performance in the coming period is necessary. The participants highlighted transparency of media ownership, transparency of state advertising and media concentration as critical areas that need to be better defined. They also believe that the future European Committee for Media Services should have greater independence and powers than those proposed. As for Croatia, it was mentioned in the discussion that the proposal of the new Act on Media, which is planned to be submitted to the procedure by the end of this year, will take into account the aspects of the proposal of the European Act on Freedom of the Media and elaborate some things in more detail, and the intention is to implement a mechanism for early recognition and dismissal of strategic lawsuits against public participation – SLAPP lawsuits.
The European Media Freedom Act, among other things, includes standard protective measures at the EU level in editorial independence, media concentration, transparency of state advertising and protection of media content on the Internet. Furthermore, it seeks to ensure more effortless cross-border operation of public and private media on the common EU market, considering the digital transformation of the media space. This proposal of the Commission, which was formulated as a regulation, should now be discussed by the co-legislators: the European Parliament and the Council of the EU (member states). After their possible changes and harmonization, the regulation will be fully binding and directly applied throughout the European Union. Along with the law, the Commission also attached a Recommendation that contains a catalogue of voluntary measures to strengthen the media’s resistance to pressure, such as empowering journalists to participate in critical decisions for the functioning of media houses and strategies for ensuring the long-term stability of the production of informative content.

A recording of the discussion is available on the Facebook page of the European Parliament in Croatia.

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